PHMSA Notice Offers Carriers Assurance in midst of Harmonization Flux
February 28, 2017 •
On Feb. 27, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a notice stating that it won’t penalize companies conforming to new international hazardous material regulations not yet harmonized within the U.S. Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR).
PHMSA’s efforts to harmonize international transport standards are halted by a White House memorandum issued in January. The memorandum directs agency/department heads to withhold sending any regulations to the Federal Register for publication until a current Administration department or agency head reviews them. PHMSA’s final rule, HM-215N on International Harmonization that was scheduled to be published on Jan. 26, 2017, was withdrawn because of the regulatory freeze.
HM-215N amends the HMR to maintain consistency with international regulations and standards by incorporating various amendments, including changes to proper shipping names, hazard classes, packing groups, special provisions, packaging authorizations, air transport quantity limitations, and vessel stowage requirements. According to PHMSA, these revisions are necessary to harmonize the HMR with recent changes made to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG), the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air, and the United Nations Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods—Model Regulations. Additionally, HM-215N includes several amendments to the HMR that result from coordination with Canada under the U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council.
“PHMSA hereby gives notice that while it decides whether or not to adopt the 2017-18 versions of these international standards, it will not take enforcement action against any offeror or carrier who is using the 2017-2018 versions of these standards when all or part of the transportation is by air with respect to the ICAO Technical Instructions, or all or part of the transportation is by vessel with respect to the IMDG Code.” The notice stated. “In addition, PHMSA will not take enforcement action against any offeror or carrier who offers or accepts for domestic or international transportation by any mode packages marked or labeled in accordance with the 2017-18 versions. PHMSA will permit the use of either the 2015-2016 standards or the newer standards until this notice is rescinded or otherwise modified.”
Enforcement discretion will be exercised by PHMSA, as well as the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and the Federal Railroad Administration. U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)headquarter staff have also provided a statement of support for the PHMSA policy and provide no indication that USCG field enforcement personnel intend to take a different approach from that stated in the PHMSA notice. Overall, PHMSA notice of enforcement discretion during the delay of HM-215N is reassuring.